The 'KidsRights Index' measures the implementation of children's rights around the world. This year's ranking documents a positive overall trend. Yet, the study also contains some surprising results.
Children belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities are discriminated against around the world. The authors of the 2017 KidsRights Index – a ranking devoted to global compliance to children's rights – say that one of their main priorities is to draw attention to that fact and to change it.
The trend, they say, can be seen around the globe. According to the study, the most troubling regions are to be found in the Near and Middle East, as well as in North Africa. This is why discrimination against children should be at the top of the 2017 political agenda, believes Marc Dullaert, founder and chairman of the KidsRights Foundation: "The discrimination of endangered groups of children and youths should be directly confronted by the governments of all 165 countries represented in the index. It significantly hinders future generations from fully realizing their potential."
One region that stands out as a positive example in regard to the rights of children from all social and cultural groups is Europe. Eight European countries can be found in the ranking's top ten positions. Portugal leads the list, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Spain, France and Sweden. Thailand and Tunisia, which landed in eighth and ninth position, are the top ranking non-European countries on the list. Finland rounded out the top ten.
At the other end of the scale are Chad, Vanuatu, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic, which is at the bottom of the 165 country ranking.
Surprising result for Great Britain
The ranking is based on five criteria: The right to life; the right to health; the right to education; the right to protection; and the effort that each country makes to ensure that those rights are upheld.
The index, initiated by the KidsRights Foundation, and in cooperation with the Erasmus University Rotterdam and the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), measures each one of those criteria. Particularly good performance in one criterion, cannot offset poor performance in another. This method of ranking leads to some surprising results. Great Britain, for instance, came in at number 156 – directly behind Angola and Papua New Guinea. The main reason, found by the study, is that Great Britain is extremely lacking when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of children's rights. This means that Britons must grapple with the fact that children's rights are better protected in countries like Eritrea, Lesotho, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger, than they are at home.
Satisfactory result for Germany
In comparison, Germany performed rather well. It came in at number 18 on the list. It was ranked number 12 in 2016. However, the slight descent had little to do with Germany's own performance. "Data for Germany did not get noticeably worse," says Ellen Vroonhof, project manager at KidsRights. "It simply points to a slight reduction in the number of children receiving elementary school education. The drop from number 12 to number 18 is largely due to better rankings from countries that have improved their own situations. The study measures each country's performance against the others'."
According to the study's authors, the KidRights Index makes one thing very clear: Economically powerful countries do not necessarily outrank economically weaker ones in every case. That has to do with another of the index's criterion. It does not judge a country's commitment to children's rights in absolute terms, but rather in respect to each country's potential resources. This explains how poorer countries, like Thailand and Tunisia, could land in the top ten. Both countries have been successful in creating environments that enable the establishment of children's rights.
"In general, the index makes clear that industrialized nations are increasingly failing to adequately invest the amounts of financing needed to establish stable environments for children's rights," say the study's authors. Many poorer countries, especially in light of their limited resources and possibilities, deserve much praise for their efforts. "It is therefore even more alarming that some industrialized nations are neglecting their leadership responsibilities and are failing to optimally invest in children's rights."
Overall, the world's poorest countries are making great efforts to establish children's rights. But the authors still see room for improvement. Many provisions and laws simply do not comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). That convention remains the standard for children's rights.